A Profile of Orna Ross: Founder of the Alliance for Independent Authors (ALLi)

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Orna Ross

Ruth O'Leary

Orna Ross originally from Wexford now living in the UK is the pen name of author Aine McCarthy. Writer of Historical fiction and Poetry, Orna is the founder of the Alliance for Independent Authors (ALLi) a not-for-profit organization that aims to protect the rights of writers and promote self-published books. She has been named one of the top 100 most influential people in publishing by The Bookseller the UK publishing trade magazine.

I had the wonderful pleasure of interviewing Orna Ross for writing ie. Orna was raised in Wexford and studied English and Women’s Studies at UCD. She then lectured in Cultural and Creativity Studies teaching a Creative and imaginative practice course. She wrote freelance for the Independent newspaper and the Irish times under Aine McCarthy and published two nonfiction books with Attic press before moving to London. A family history story from the Irish civil war about her uncle had always fascinated Orna and she vowed to write his story. But while researching the family history story, she hit a brick wall with facts and information and decided to write it as a novel instead.

Penguin picked it up but told her she would need to change her name as it was ‘too Irish.’ It was while calling her children Orna and Ross for their dinner that her pen name came to her. The book did very well and came in at number two behind The Devil Wears Prada. Orna and her publisher had very different ideas of who the market would be for the second book so following a cancer diagnosis in 2008, Orna decided to step back and take stock.

While teaching writing at the James Joyce center she came across some very talented people who had been offered very bad publishing contracts so she did a publishing rights course to help her students to get better conditions. Orna’s poetry writing started around this time when she wrote a poem for a dear friend’s funeral and she has been writing poetry ever since.

Having been traditionally published by Penguin for her historical fiction, Orna then decided to self-publish her poetry. She started by putting 10 poems together to learn about the business and the book did very well. This was followed by a meditation guide. She then got her rights back from Penguin and split the historical novel and released it as two books and they both did extremely well.

Looking around for a group of like-minded people she couldn’t find a self-publishing group, so she set up the Alliance of Independent Authors,(ALLi) in 2012, to support authors on their path to becoming self-published. ALLi was an instant hit. With traditional publishing and self-publishing experience along with her teaching, she felt that everything she had done up to then was now useful for the organization.

Membership to ALLi gives you access to an author’s forum where the ALLi team, ambassadors, advisors, and other author members are all on hand to help with any queries you may have. There is a very useful watchdog desk that monitors the self-publishing sector and has a service ratings list and approved partner program, so you can assemble a trusted, vetted publishing team. They also offer advice on contracts you may be offered and have a range of self-publishing guides. The guides are free with membership but also available to purchase for non-members.

Orna also co-hosts ALLI’s podcast called Self-Publishing Advice Podcast. This podcast has a great balance of publishing advice and creative care. Having taught Culture and creativity studies at UCD for 10 years Orna is very interested in how creativity works. Orna focuses on looking after the creative side, creative rest, creative play, and nurturing your creativity. A new project she devised, which is almost finished is a planning process for profitable publishing which draws on a lot of the creativity theory that we apply to our writing.

ALLI is 10 years old and the team is at a level for Orna to take more time for her writing. She has developed a literary romance series about W.B. Yeats and Maude Gonne. The first three books will be released as a trilogy in 2023.

More information on Orna’s writing can be found on www.ornaross.com

For information on ALLi : https://www.allianceindependentauthors.org/

The Self-Publishing Advice Podcast can be found wherever you get your podcasts.

(c) Ruth O’Leary

About the author

My name is Ruth O’Leary and I live in Dublin with my husband, three sons and our golden retriever called Rusky. I write short stories and flash fiction and my stories have been published in Woman’s Way and Irelands Own magazines. I am a member of Writers Ink and I am currently writing my first novel. I work as a freelance movie extra and have worked on Irish and UK TV dramas as well as big screen movies. I love working in this creative field. The variety of the work, and the opportunity to work with people of all ages and from many different backgrounds, is both interesting and fulfilling.

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